“And instantly I was in the Spirit, and I saw a throne in heaven and someone sitting on it. The one sitting on the throne was as brilliant as gemstones—like jasper and carnelian. And the glow of an emerald circled his throne like a rainbow.” Revelation 4:2-3
The cause of John’s amazement was the throne of God that he saw “standing in heaven.” This was not a piece of furniture, but a symbol of God’s sovereign rule and authority located in the temple in heaven. According to Revelation 21:22 the heavenly temple is not an actual building: “The Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb” are the temple. The use of the term “temple” symbolizes God’s presence. The throne was said to be standing because God’s sovereign rule is fixed, permanent, and unshakable. A vision of God’s immovable throne reveals He is in permanent, unchanging, and complete control of the universe. That is a comforting realization in light of the horror and trauma of the end-time events about to be revealed in chapters 6–19.
The jasper stone John saw refers to a clear jewel, perhaps resembling a diamond. It portrays God’s absolute purity and perfection. The carnelian was ruby red. It portrays God as our Redeemer. Israel’s high priest wore the jasper and carnelian and ten other gemstones on his chest (Exodus 28:17–21). Each of the twelve stones represented a tribe of Israel. Just as the high priest wore the tribes of Israel symbolically on his chest, so Jesus, our High Priest carries us Christians on His heart. Jasper and carnelian are also the first and last gems, respectively, on the high priest’s garments. This description not only reinforces that God is the “first and the last (Revelation 1:8; 22:13)”, it also identifies Jesus as God, as both perfection and our redeemer.
John also indicates that an emerald rainbow circled God’s throne. An emerald is green and symbolizes life. The rainbow first appeared to Noah and his sons after the Flood as a token of God’s promise to refrain from sending another flood to destroy the world (Genesis 9:8–17). The emerald rainbow around God’s throne likely indicates that His promise of eternal life is guaranteed.